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Last John Keats Love Letter in Private Hands for Sale; Dying Poet Pours Out Heart
The last of Keats’s 30 surviving love letters to Fanny still in private hands, it is estimated at between £80,000 and £120,000. Photo: Bonhams.
LONDON.- An exceptionally rare and moving love letter from Keats to his fiancée Fanny Brawne is for sale tomorrow - 29 March - as the Roy Davids Collection of Papers and Portraits comes up for auction at Bonhams, New Bond Street.

The last of Keats’s 30 surviving love letters to Fanny still in private hands, it is estimated at between £80,000 and £120,000.

Keats wrote the letter in 1820 when he was fatally ill with consumption (TB). Though Fanny lived next door to Keats their meetings were restricted by his health which also prevented even the most limited physical contact.

Keats refers to this painful constraint in the letter, regretting the fact that they cannot kiss – TB being highly contagious – but consoling himself with the certainty of her love. The full text of the letter is given below.

The doomed love affair between Keats and Fanny Brawne is among the most famous in the history of literature and continues to fascinate succeeding generations as the success of the 2009 award winning film ‘Bright Star’ showed.

Indeed, a note scribbled by Keats on the outside of the folded letter - “You had better not come today” - appears as a line in the film - a poignant reminder of the poet’s condition Keats has long been recognised as one of the finest letter writers in the language and his friend Joseph Severn who was with him when he died in 1821 maintained that, “many of Keats’ letters contained quite as fine poetry as any of his actual poems.”

Roy Davids, himself a published poet, commented, “It is a mark of Keats’ poetic genius and the power of his imagination that the words of this letter fall so naturally into the rhythm of verse. To own a manuscript by Keats is really the closest you can get to him both physically and mentally. In some degree, it is an act of worship.”



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